The career path for an NFL player generally doesn't go SEC school -> first-round draft pick -> shoe store within the course of 18 months. But Matt Elam, last year's first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, is thinking beyond just football.
Elam is now working at a Finish Line sporting goods store in Gainesville, Fla. Wait, what? Does he need the money? Probably not. No, Elam has always wanted to own a sporting goods store of his own, and so he's taking this gig to get some experience serving others, not tackling them.
“I just need to get retail knowledge,” Elam said. “That’s basically what I’m doing. I’m getting that knowledge for when it’s time ... it’s not about the money. It’s just me building.”
The idea of an NFL player taking a "normal" job has its funny aspects; Elam apparently submitted applications to almost half a dozen stores in the local Gainesville mall before The Finish Line hired him. You wonder what those other stores thought when they got the application from Elam, a local hero from his days playing at Florida.
He'll work there until April, when he'll report to Ravens mini-camp. But already, Elam's celebrity has brought new customers to the store: “A lot of people have started recognizing me,” he said. “Kids will come in for pictures and fans will come in asking for pictures, autographs. People will be buying stuff just for me to sign it. It’s pretty exciting.”
What's not exciting is stocking shelves, but even that has its allure for Elam, apparently: “I didn’t realize there was so much organization, so much planning. I didn’t realize there was so much to it,” he said. “I just thought you’d say you want a shoe, so then you’d go back and grab a shoe. There’s way more to it. You have number coding. You have color coding, all of that. I just realized that there’s more to it than I thought.”
Elam proved he's got some money savvy before he even played a down. He negotiated his own $6.7 million salary, saving more than $200,000 in commissions by working out a deal for pretty much the exact salary he was owed under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. Even though he earned more than $400,000 in salary this past season, we bet he brown-bags his lunch at The Finish Line, too.